What is an email attachment?
The original purpose of email, or electronic mail, was to send text-only messages across an electronic medium. Of course, as the Internet and email programs became more sophisticated, the demands and expectations of users grew. Users not only wanted to send text in a message, they also wanted to include sound files, scanned photos, spreadsheet or database documents, and rich text format documents. Rich text format documents are those that contain fancy fonts, enhancements such as bolded or underlined text, tables, graphics, etc. So, how do we send these non-text documents through a system that is meant to handle only text-based documents? The answer is the file attachment.
A file attachment is defined as “a file that is ‘attached’ and sent as part of a standard text email message.” In essence, it tags along with the text message when the message is sent to the recipient. When the recipient receives the message, a message included with the original message file attachment enclosed. The recipient can then open the attachment or save it to their computer.
Viewing file attachments.
Here’s how you can view a file attachment that someone has sent you:
Microsoft Outlook Express 5 and Outlook Express 4
- Double-click on the paper clip icon to open the file. You’ll be asked if you want to open the file or save it and read later.
- If you want to open it right away, Microsoft Windows will automatically start the program needed to view or run the file (provided you have the program associated with that file, such as Microsoft Word). If you want to save the file to read later, just right click on the icon and choose ‘Save As’, then save in the desired location.
- If you change your mind and want to un-attach the file before you send the e-mail, right-click on the attachment and choose ‘Remove’.
- Double-click on an attachment to display the image or text. You can also choose to view attachment online, or as links by going to your mail View menu, then clicking on the options provided.
Warning about file attachments
Certain viruses can be transmitted through e-mail attachments. Don’t open file attachments that are executable files (that is, they end in “.exe”) from anyone you don’t know and trust. The same caution should be used with other files that may contain macros, like Microsoft Word documents.
Saving file attachments
What do you do if someone has attached a file to a message you receive — a file that isn’t a picture that shows up in your email program? How do you make that file ready for you to use?
Figuring out whether a file is attached to a message:
If someone has a spreadsheet, a sound file or a family picture that they wish to share with you, that person can attach the file to an email message and send it along. But after you get the email message, how can you tell a file’s been attached to it?
The visual clues vary by program:
In Outlook and Outlook Express, messages that have file attachments appear with a small paper clip at the left end of their heading. In addition, when the content of the message is viewed at the bottom of the window, you’ll notice another paper clip icon in the message header.
In Netscape Messenger, you won’t be able to tell which messages have attachments until you view them. At that point, a paper clip icon appears at the top of the message, beside the header.
In Eudora, messages with file attachments appear with a small paper clip, or a paper with a paper clip on it, at the left end of their heading.
Dealing with attached files
If you receive a message that has a file or files attached to it, you should probably save the file to your hard disk first, before opening the file and making changes to it. Here’s what to do:
In Outlook/Outlook Express, select the message containing the file and choose File>Save Attachments. From the list that appears, choose the name of the file you wish to save, or select All Attachments (to save all files attached to the message in the same folder on your hard disk). Choose the folder you wish to save the files in, and click Save.
In Netscape Messenger, select the message containing the file and choose File>Open Attachment. You should see a dialog box asking whether you would like to open (view) the file’s contents or save the file to the hard disk. Select Save it to disk and choose OK. Choose the folder you wish to save the files in, and click OK. If you don’t see the dialog box and the file opens in a program similar to the one that created it, you can always use that program’s menus to save the file by choosing File>Save As, selecting a folder and choosing Save. As an alternative, if the file appears as an icon at the bottom of the message (which it should, if you click the paper clip icon once), then right-click the file icon and select Save Attachment As from the menu that appears, select an appropriate folder, and choose Save.
In Eudora, most file attachments are saved automatically in your Eudora Attach folder, without you having to do a thing.
Now that you know what to do when someone sends you a file, you might want to learn how to attach files to your own outgoing messages.
How do I send an email attachment?
In Microsoft Outlook Express 4-6, Open Outlook Express and create a new message. Click on the paper clip icon at the top of the “New Message” composition box. Find the file you want to attach, and click twice to attach it. You will see the attached file displayed at the bottom of the message composition box. You can attach more than one file by repeating the process.
In Netscape Mail, at the top of the message composition box, click on Attach, then Attach File. Find the file you want to attach. You’ll see the name of the file displayed in another box of your email. Click on OK and the attachment will be sent with your email. Note: If the recipient of your email has a slow Internet connection, a large attachment can take some time to download. In some cases, people set their browsers to reject large attachments.